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Horsemeat found in prepared burgers in UK & Ireland Supermarket supply chain

In the UK there has very recently been a supply chain recall regarding prepared burgers from a number of larger European supermarket supply chains, following analysis conducted by the Irish Food Safety Agency


AFAIK, I've not eaten these myself, as I'm personally not a fan of the generic supermarket brand pre-made frozen meat patty and prefer to make my own burgers from scratch.

Was wondering how fellow C'hounders opinions about this type of product mis-description / supply chain failure.

This happened in Europe - does this type of food issue occur in the US?

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  1. I thought horse meat was pretty common in both those countries.

    I can imagine that here in the states there are a lot of mystery things in generic ground meat here. Isn't there an "acceptable" amount of bugs, droppings etc?

    16 Replies
    1. re: foodieX2

      I don't think the issue is really just "horse meat, ew, gross" but rather that the products were advertised and sold as beef, but had traces of both horse and pork meat in them. So there is there is an issue of false/incorrect label. Apparently, the food producers were either using horse and pork as extenders or were not properly cleaning grinders and/or packing equipment between batches. Either way, it raises concerns about the overall safety of the products. Of course, there is a certain gross-out factor if you don't routinely consume horse meat, then find out you inadvertently did. Even if consuming horse is acceptable/common (relative to the US), it doesn't make it OK to slip horse meat into a product sold as beef.

      1. re: mpjmph

        <<Even if consuming horse is acceptable/common (relative to the US), it doesn't make it OK to slip horse meat into a product sold as beef. >>

        Of course not, especially if there are dietary/religious issues.

        My point is that I am sure this happens in the US too. BBK (or was it McD's) fries cooked in beef tallow and Purdue chicken processed with dairy, corn and peanuts are just two examples that pop in my head.

        1. re: foodieX2

          It was McD's with the beef tallow. There was a huge from non-beef eaters when they found out, and McD's had to change their practices. Products are also recalled all the time when allergens or key ingredients are left off the label. So yes, it happens in the US, and the reaction when it does happen is pretty similar to what we're seeing in the UK right now.

          1. re: mpjmph

            exactly. What is happening in the UK is not unique.

          2. re: foodieX2

            Fries cooked in beef tallow, without making the consumer aware, is incomplete information. Horse meat sold as beef is an outright misrepresentation. The latter seems to be a much greater sin IMHO.

            1. re: Rmis32

              in the UK, we traditonally fry chips in beef dripping, although an increasing number of places fry in vegetable oil. I would take the view that it's incumbent on someone averse to eating beef products to check whether a place uses it for frying.

              There seems to be growing evidence that the horsemeat in the beef scandal is due to criminal acitvity - although where the crime has been committed is anyone's guess at present.

              The latest product to be discovered with horsemeat is lasagne produced by Findus and sold in the UK, France & Sweden. If I have understood the complexities of the food supply chain correctly, it starts with a contract being offered to a French company. However, the lasagne was made in Luxembourg. The company which made it sourced the meat from Poland. The Polish supplier had bought the meat from an abatoir in Romania. So, that's five countries involved in getting a dead horse into a lasagne on sale at a supermarket five minutes away from me.

              1. re: Harters

                BBC Radio 4's Food Programme is devoted to this issue this week:


                This isn't just about the dna of the meat, which is how horsemeat can be identified. Horsemeat can contain butozoladin; according to Wikipedia, "In the United States and United Kingdom, it is no longer approved for human use, as it can cause severe adverse effects such as suppression of white blood cell production and aplastic anemia."

                1. re: Harters

                  Correction. Not Poland, but Cyprus. Allegedly.

          3. re: foodieX2

            I can't speak for Ireland but I have never seen horse meat here in the UK, it's more common in France and Belgium but becoming less so I think.
            It's also popular in Slovenia and I have seen pony carpaccio on menus there.

            Personally i haven't got a problem with eating horse and would probably try it if it was available.

            1. re: foodieX2

              Horse meat has never been part of the culinary tradition in the UK. The British are probably the most animal-loving people in Europe so the concept of eating horse meat is shocking to the general public, hence the outroar.

              1. re: Roland Parker

                While that may be the case there are several places in the UK that do raise horses for consumption. They have been interviewed on the BBC and noted that the publicity has actually increased their sales. The so called benefits of horse meat are similar to the same claims made for bison, ostrich and the like.. high in protein lower in fat.

                We are probably going to find that the problem is being caused by poor sanitary standards at processing plants rather than an overt attempt to substitute horse meat for beef.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  No, the French have already uncovered that horsemeat was shipped, labeled and invoiced properly as horsemeat, to the Spanghero plant in SW France.

                  Mysteriously, this horsemeat disappeared -- the only meat billed as leaving this factory was marked and labeled as beef. They have since had a significant portion of their operations shut down yesterday (some operations were re-opened this morning).

                  The general belief all across Europe is that this was a willing scam to maximize profits by pulling the wool over the eyes of the consumers across Europe.

                  The jury is still out for Comigel -- the company to whom most of Spanghero's products were shipped -- the ministry of health in France said flat-out that there is no record of any testing of product received from Spanghero, and that there is no excuse for Comigel's employees not having known the difference between beef and horsemeat (it's a significant difference in appearance and aroma) - (my comment) -- Comigel has self-blinded -- while they not have technically done anything wrong, the minister's view is that they knew darned well it was going on and chose to ignore it.

                  There is also an enormous amount of speculation that this is pre-meditated fraud, and criminal proceedings are still under consideration.

              2. re: foodieX2

                Horse meat is definitely not a common meat to consume in any part of UK/Ireland. The BBC has stressed over and over in their reporting on radio that, while it is most unusual to see horse meat offered for food use in those countries, that is because of national preferences, not because there is a sanitation issue.

                I think the BBC World Service is being very careful NOT to suggest that the consumption of horse meat is unpalatable in and of itself. They do not wish to insult those countries in Europe where equine butchery is part of life.

                I think that improper labeling is at issue here, not the source of the meat...consumers should be equally concerned to find pork or lamb in a product labeled "beef".

                1. re: LJS

                  YES -- there is an enormous number of people who do not eat pork in Europe for religious reasons -- and in this entire investigation, it has come out that there has been pork mixed into some of these "beef" dishes, as well. As you can imagine, there are some folks who are extremely upset about this revelation.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Unless I've missed a report, I think the pork in the beef meatballs has been restricted to one supermarket's range here in the UK. It will be a shocker for them, as Waitrose is a our pemium supermarket chain -prides itself on high quality and a committment to local sourcing.The meatballs were prouced at a Scottish factory.


                    1. re: Harters

                      To be really honest, there are so many companies involved, in so many countries, I've completely lost track of what animal is in which products. (which is, ironically, exactly what Spanghero and Comigel were banking on.....)

              3. Horse meat is rarely available in the UK - other than as pet feed. Many UK residents probably would be very upset to discover the cow burgers they had bought actually contained horse meat. One of the samples was reported to contain 27% horse.

                Personally I am not bothered as I have willingly eaten horse in France where it is readily on sale.

                I have no problem in buying ready made burgers, although I will want my burger fully cooked unless I have minced (ground) the meat myself so know the source.

                Apparently they also discovered some pig DNA in some of the burgers as well, which could be upsetting to the non-pork eating religions.

                1. One way to reduce the risk of Mad Cow, eh?

                  1. Dining on a "pony burger" just sounds so wrong:(

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lillipop

                      Horsemeat is consumed in many countries around the world.

                    2. Not to be a neigh sayer,

                      A. It is a report in the Guardian.

                      B. Horse meat is delicious.

                      C. You guys eat Sheppard's pie.

                      D. Be glad it isn't Haggis, the Irish and English agree on not liking the Scots (That's a joke, son, a joke)

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: law_doc89

                        a. It is a report in ALL the European press.

                        b. In your opinion. Not everyone agrees.

                        c. Shepherd's pie is not made with shepherds -- it is made with lamb, a meat which is proudly raised to a very high standard in the UK and Europe, and is actually raised for human consumption, and British beef if some of the finest to be had. It's rather doubtful that the Romanian abattoir was following EU guidelines or choosing healthy animals fit for consumption.

                        d. If you'd ever actually eaten haggis, you'd know that it's really not as bad as it sounds.

                      2. My morning newspaper sets out the full complexity of the supply chain resulting in the horsemeat in lasagne:

                        Findus - a French company - places order with another French company.

                        That company contracts the manufacture to a company in Luxenbourg

                        Luxembourg company orders the meat from a third French company.

                        That company places an order with a trader in Cyprus.

                        The trader subcontracts it to a trader in the Netherlands

                        The Dutch trader orders from an abattoir in Romania

                        The meat is delivered to the "third company" above.

                        Which forwards it on to the company in Luxembourg.

                        Which makes the lasagne which in due course arrives in a supermarket in North Cheshire, along with everywhere else in the country.

                        Me? When I want lasagne, I go to the supermarket in North Cheshire and buy half a pound of British minced beef, some lasagne sheets, tin a tomatoes, etc and just make the fecking thing.

                        If I want horsemeat in a pasta dish, I'll happily do so in northern Italy, in the full knowledge of what I'm eating (actually donkey is tastier)

                        1. Fortunately, this switcheroo wouldn't work well in reverse. Imagine Paul Revere saddled up on a slow-moving angus steer shouting: "The British are coming!" I doubt he would have made it to Lexington or Concord.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Veggo

                            but the redcoats just might have died laughing....

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Just think how history might have turned on that. We might still be "saddled" with America and never have got rid of the colony.

                              1. re: Harters

                                Or the US would be more civilized like Canada

                            2. as a sort of sidebar -- I'm in France, and retailers here are pulling ground-beef products left and right as more and more items are found to have horsemeat.

                              **Even though horsemeat is eaten regularly in France** -- I'm really surprised at the conversations I had with clients today. They are very shocked at the deceptions, and it has really shaken their confidence in the food supply.

                              It will be very interesting to see how this shakes out in the days an weeks to come.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sunshine842

                                A further worry is the "raid" yesterday on an abattoir near me and a meat wholesaler in Wales. The abattoir is licensed to slaughter horses for export (or, indeed, for consumption in the UK - it is legal here, although no-one eats it) but, it is alleged, that they have supplied the company in Wales from where, somehow, the meat has got into the food chain.

                                It is becoming a more complex story almost by the day.

                                By the by, I buy most of my meat over the internet, from a farm in the next county which raises the animals to free-range or organic standards.

                                1. re: Harters

                                  Also there are reports of "bute" being found in the slaughtered horses, some of which are very likely to have entered the human food chain which can be harmful.

                              2. This morning's Guardian reports that they have, exclusively, talked to the Dutch trader. He confirms that he bought horsemeant from Romania and sold it on to a French company. He claims he clearly labelled it as horsemeat. However, the paper reports that a Dutch broadcaster indicates that the tarder was convicted last year of passing off horsemeat as halal beef.

                                In a further example of the complexities of international capitalism, the trader company is registered in Cyprus, managed from Belgium and owned by an off-shore compnay based in the British Virgin Islands.

                                Simple this ain't.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Harters

                                  AND the press (France24, just this morning) is claiming to have obtained copies of invoices issued to Comigel (the French processing company) that are clearly marked "horsemeat" and are correctly marked with the international tariff code for horsemeat.

                                  It's entirely possible that there will be more than one dirty hand found in this mess.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    update to the update -- the first link in the chain appears to have been Spanghero, the processor in the southwest of France. The invoices from the Romanian abbatoir clearly bill for horsement, but yet some 750 tonnes of meat magically arrived marked horsemeat, but left marked beef.

                                    There will be more to come, for certain...and they've made two arrests at the Welsh abbatoir, and one at the Yorkshire company.

                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                      "Horsegate"? This scandal has more gates than the Kentucky Derby.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        Yowza. It continues.

                                        The French Ministry of Health said this morning that Comigel (the broker who sold the meat from Spanghero on to Findus) didn't relabel, but there are no records for any tests run on any of the shipments from Spanghero. The spokesman for the Ministry said that the Ministry also holds Comigel responsible, because it would be impossible for a meat processor to NOT notice the appearance and smell of horsemeat. It appears that they were "self-blinding" -- they knew darned well it was horsemeat, but by not testing, are trying to hide behind the flimsy excuse of "we didn't know".

                                        So now it affects the UK, Ireland, France, German, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands (frozen food pulled from shelves in all these countries) -- but as of the evening news, now includes Norway, Austria, and Denmark.
                                        They believe this has been going on for six months or so, to the tune of some 750 tons of meat.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          There appears to be a secondary story developing in the UK with the police making three arrests today. This appears to be connected with the "raids" on an abattoir in Yorkshire an a processing plan in Wales. So far, there doesnt seem to be any connection with the Findus lasagne scandal.

                                          1. re: Harters

                                            I saw the arrests in the UK mentioned last night -- and yes, they have said that this isn't linked to the Findus affair -- just that they uncovered the Yorkshire and Welsh abbatoirs on the way past.

                                  2. Over the last few years we have had two majour malfunctions in meat slaughtering and had bacterial strains in foods transformed there. Despite food inspectors overseen by our government, it happened and it is shameful.

                                    1. In response to your thread this article was in the Globe and Mail today:

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                        similar articles to this were printed/broadcast/posted today on every European media outlet, whether print, broadcast, or online.

                                      2. The US has enough of a problem with counterfeit fish that it doesn't need the added burden of counterfeit cloven-hoofed animals.

                                        1. To beef or not to beef - that is equestrian.....


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. It gets worse by the hour!

                                            The BBC has just reported that "as a precautionary measure" several items have been withdrawn from the restaurants/cafes at the Houses of Parliament. You couldnt make it up if you tried.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: Harters

                                              and school lunches earlier in the week -- and now that Nestle is involved, I'm sure it's going to get even worse. (Nestle found horse DNA in some of its prepared meals, and I'm guessing they're going to make sure someone is punished)

                                              And just for clarity -- the British are somewhat (but not entirely) squicked out at the thought of eating horse, but the ministries of health are now making sure that they're telling people that the meat itself is safe, and the levels of bute found are too low to be toxic to any single individual (but it's illegal for use in the food chain, thus the continuing investigtions)

                                              The French aren't squicked out at all by eating horsemeat.

                                              It's the fact that it was willfully mislabeled that has really infuriated people.

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                What beats me is that the authorities, Europe-wide, really don't seem much closer to identifying which part of the food chain is responsible. You would have thought that with so many products involved, there would be a clear common link. Unless, of course, the fraud has been so wide-spread that there are multiple separate scams going on.

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  It's not all of it, but the French authorities are pretty clear that the link broke at Spanghero - the invoices from the Romanian abbattoir are all correct - clearly marked horsemeat -- but the invoices for the stuff that *left* Spanghero say beef.

                                                  I'm thinking this is much bigger than one processor in a little town in France, though.

                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                  I am one of the UK who is not squicked (love that term) out by eating horse meat.

                                                  The relationship between the French and the British has never been cosy, and I have on at least one occasion been served horse meat at a restaurant in France when I ordered beef. It is probably quite common for this to happen to British tourists in France. It doesn't surprise me that meat from France contains horse.

                                                  1. re: PhilipS

                                                    There is a very noticeable difference between horsemeat and beef -- horse is a considerably darker red, and it has a very distinctive aroma. It is probably NOT common for the switch to be made, as even a non-foodie could tell the difference.

                                                    If you were served horse after ordering beef, your next move should have been to the commisariat, because misrepresentation in a restaurant is just as grave and just as punishable an offence as in a commercial packing operation.

                                                    And, incidentally -- horsemeat is not uncommon, but it is not the prevalent red meat in French butchers or supermarket by any stretch of the imagination.

                                                    You'll be quite interested to know that my French clients have been aghast at the unfolding of events -- they're really, really angry that the system has allowed this sort of misrepresentation to appear in the food chain, and rather justifiably makes them wonder what they're really eating.

                                              2. The latest twist to the tale (not horse tail, of course) is that IKEA is withdrawing its meatballs in the Czech Republic after horsemeat was found. Apparently the discovery was made before the meatballs reached the stores - it's affected some 750kg of the product - so not a vast amount.

                                                1. I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse..... I guess Tesco just listened!

                                                  Anyone want a burger from Tesco? Yay or neigh?

                                                  Not entirely sure how Tesco are going to get over this hurdle.

                                                  Waitress in Tesco asked if I wanted anything on my Burger.
                                                  So I had £5 each way!

                                                  Had some burgers from Tesco for my tea last night ...
                                                  I still have a bit between my teeth.

                                                  A woman has been taken into hospital after eating horse meat burgers from Tesco.
                                                  Her condition is said to be stable.

                                                  Tesco are now testing all their vegetarian burgers for traces of unicorn

                                                  "I've just checked the Tesco burgers in my freezer ... AND THEY'RE OFF"

                                                  Tesco now forced to deny presence of zebra in burgers,
                                                  as shoppers confuse barcodes for serving suggestions.

                                                  Said to the missus, These Tesco burgers give me the trots....

                                                  "To beef or not to beef, that is equestrian".....

                                                  A cow walks into a bar.
                                                  Barman says, "Why the long face?"
                                                  Cow says "Illegal ingredients, coming over here stealing our jobs!"

                                                  I hear the smaller version of those Tesco burgers make great horse d'oeuvres.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    A great collection from t'internet.

                                                    "Every little helps", of course.

                                                  2. Haven't watched this BBC program yet, but the tabloids in the UK were reporting yesterday that unknown meat DNA was found in curries bought in London. ie not horse, beef, pork, lamb, goat etc.


                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: PhilipS

                                                      Saw the headline of one tabloid on Newnight, last night. They seemed to be trailing that it might have been cat or dog. Which smacks very much of the sort of racist nonsense we used to have in the UK back in the early 1970s when asian restaurants were just starting to open here.

                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                        Along with the "Kentucky fried rat" that appeared about the same time.

                                                        1. re: PhilipS

                                                          There was a programme a year or so back when chefs Fergus Henderson and Jeremy Lee toured asia eating , or in some cases, not eating meats which might be exotic to us in the west but are not in their native lands. There were, indeed, segments on both dog and rat which, IIRC, they bottled out of eating.


                                                      2. re: PhilipS

                                                        just fyi -- iPlayer is not available outside the UK, so only a handful will be able to watch it.

                                                      3. A tiny mention of this in the following piece about horses in Spain: